ISSN 0439-755X
CN 11-1911/B

Acta Psychologica Sinica ›› 2016, Vol. 48 ›› Issue (8): 924-932.doi: 10.3724/SP.J.1041.2016.00924

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Reorientation in uncontinuous virtual reality space

ZHOU Xi1; WAN Xiaoang1; DU Dikang2; XIONG Yilei3; HUANG Weixin2   

  1. (1 Department of Psychology, Tsinghua University, Beijing 100084, China) (2 School of Architecture, Tsinghua University, Beijing 100084, China) (3 Faculty of Engineering, The Chinese University of Hong Kong, Hong Kong 999077, China)
  • Received:2014-11-14 Published:2016-08-25 Online:2016-08-25
  • Contact: WAN Xiaoang, E-mail:


We propose that one of the significant characteristics of the virtual reality (VR) might be the so-called “uncontinuity.” That is, VR users can go from one region of the virtual space directly to another region simply by switching the virtual scenes, regardless of whether there is a physical connection between these two regions or not. However, it remains unclear how well people are able to adapt to the uncontinuous visual space and stay oriented. Here we report a study designed to investigate whether the participants are able to perform a reorientation task in the uncontinuous virtual space. Considering the effect of immersion and the influence of the geometric information available in the virtual environment, we also examined how the participants’ reorientation performance might be influenced by the type of the VR and/or the shape of the virtual rooms. We used a 2 (Type of VR: Head-Mounted-Display or desktop VR) × 2 (Shape of Room: square or rectangle) between-participants design and conducted two experiments. There were three different experimental stages on each trial, including the exploration, disorientation, and reorientation stages. During the exploration stage, the participants virtually went through 2 to 4 disconnected rooms, while each room was named after a fruit. In each room, there was a box in each corner, and one box (target) was different from the other three boxes. The participants were asked to remember the location of the target before they left for the next room. This procedure was repeated until the participants arrived at the last room in which a fruit cue appeared. The participants were instructed to press a button upon seeing the fruit cue. Then they were suddenly placed in the room which was named after this fruit again, and therefore were disoriented. During the reorientation stage, the participants were asked to regain orientation and then to indicate at which corner the target was located in this room. Their choices of corners and reaction times were recorded and analyzed. The results revealed that the participants were able to perform the reorientation task in the uncontinuous virtual space, but their performance was not significantly correlated with their self-reported sense of direction. Surprisingly, they also showed better performance with the desktop VE than with the Head-Mounted-Display VE, though the shape of the room did not seem to matter. Taken together, the findings of the present study suggest that humans are able to perform the reorientation task in the uncontinuous virtual space, implying that humans can adapt to the uncontinuous virtual space and stay oriented in it. These findings shed light on a bright future of the implications of the Virtual Reality.

Key words: reorientation, uncontinuity, virtual reality